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Uncle Henry’s, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire

Uncle Henry's is a family run farm shop, butchery and café at Grayingham Grange Farm where they grow wheat and barley alongside rearing pigs. Uncle Henry’s have taken part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday for 13 years. Emma Jones is the PR & Event Manager at Uncle Henry’s and here she shares their experience and details how they organise their event.

Over 1000 acres\ Lincolnshire\ 6,000 visitors

Engag­ing with the public

See­ing our event grow every year and wel­com­ing new and return­ing vis­i­tors to our farm is so reward­ing. It is won­der­ful to watch fam­i­lies spend the day togeth­er in a rur­al set­ting and engage with our team. Our farm machin­ery dis­play is always one of our most pop­u­lar attrac­tions and it is so enjoy­able to explain in detail to vis­i­tors how we use the machines to help grow crops and how the crops are used. Many peo­ple are unaware of their uses, such as our maize crop is used in our anaer­o­bic digester which then pro­vides our elec­tric and heat for the farm. In return we are always reward­ed with such amaz­ing pho­tos and feed­back from our vis­i­tors who have enjoyed the day.

Man­ag­ing large vis­i­tor num­bers using the tick­et­ing service

We were delight­ed with the free online tick­et­ing ser­vice that LEAF offered to us in 2018 – which uses the Try­book­ing sys­tem. It helped us to man­age vis­i­tor num­bers and the flow of vis­i­tors through­out the day. It was also fas­ci­nat­ing to see how far peo­ple trav­elled to come to our event. 

We split the tick­ets into 4 cat­e­gories — under 2’s, 2 – 11 years, 12 – 18 years and adult (over 18) — which helped us plan the event bet­ter in terms of age-relat­ed activ­i­ties and attrac­tions. We offered a total of 4,500 tick­ets online which were ful­ly booked 3 weeks pri­or to the event. We then pro­mot­ed to oth­er cus­tomers that if they didn’t have a tick­et they need­ed to arrive after 1pm so we could man­age the car park.

The main advan­tage of using this tick­et­ing ser­vice was that we could send all the event infor­ma­tion direct­ly to the vis­i­tor. In pre­vi­ous years, we have had an open gate approach and when we reached 5,000 vis­i­tors in 2017, it was dif­fi­cult to ensure that they were aware of our facil­i­ties, event sched­ule, first aid and safe­ty infor­ma­tion such as hand­wash­ing etc. We used to hand out leaflets to every car with a site map and infor­ma­tion which was an addi­tion­al cost to cov­er. By send­ing this infor­ma­tion through the online tick­et­ing ser­vice or direct­ing peo­ple to our own web­site with an FAQ sec­tion, we print­ed few­er leaflets and felt that cus­tomers were more aware of where to go on site on arrival.

Our car park­ing field will accom­mo­date 1,000 cars and in pre­vi­ous years groups of vis­i­tors would dri­ve sep­a­rate­ly and meet up here. By send­ing pre-event emails to every­one we high­light­ed this and encour­aged peo­ple to car share so we could wel­come more peo­ple. It worked as we were able to accom­mo­date 6,000 vis­i­tors in 2018.

We will def­i­nite­ly use the online tick­et­ing ser­vice again this year! I don’t think that we could host an Open Farm Sun­day with­out it now as we need to con­trol the vis­i­tor numbers.

This year we are going to adver­tise it as a reg­is­ter­ing ser­vice’ as we were unable to scan the tick­ets if peo­ple had them on their phone or print­ed out. Due to the num­bers it was unre­al­is­tic to have a print­out of tick­ethold­ers to mark off at the gate. 

We are going to give our farm shop loy­al­ty card hold­ers exclu­sive access for the first week of release. The sec­ond week we’ll pro­mote our event to our cus­tomers on our farm shop till receipt, before pro­mot­ing it on gen­er­al release on our web­site and social media channels.


How we pro­mote our event

  • e‑marketing via Mailchimp 
  • event newslet­ter to Uncle Henry’s customers 
  • Web­site
  • Press release (local and national) 
  • Local radio
  • Vil­lage newsletters 
  • Fly­ers in local schools — I usu­al­ly call the school and ask per­mis­sion then pro­vide leaflets for each class size 
  • Face­book
  • Twit­ter
  • Insta­gram
  • Stall­hold­ers that attend — they pro­mote the event through posters or social media 
  • Local busi­ness­es (fly­ers) includ­ing the Lin­colnshire Co-op 

Helpers

We are very for­tu­nate to have a great team here at Uncle Henry’s but we wouldn’t be able to run the event with­out vol­un­teers. We have assis­tance from our local rotary club, NFU, rur­al char­i­ties, arable staff, local farm­ing busi­ness­es, young farm­ers club and cadets. A lot of our vol­un­teers have helped us for many years, even so we always do a walk-through of the event the day before and again on the morn­ing before vis­i­tors arrive on site. We also use walkie talkies to answer any queries immediately. 

Activ­i­ties

We split our site into dif­fer­ent zones and pro­vide vis­i­tors with a site map. The zones are: 

  • Farm Zone
  • Ani­mal Zone 
  • Mar­ket Zone 
  • Eat Street
  • Main Ring Field 

Last year in our sta­t­ic Farm Machin­ery dis­play we had our Shire Hors­es, vin­tage trac­tors and then mod­ern machin­ery which was a fan­tas­tic visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of how farm­ing has devel­oped over the past 100 years.

Uncle Henry’s is part of a fam­i­ly farm­ing mixed arable and live­stock busi­ness, owned by Steve and Meryl Ward. Their three chil­dren Emma, Gra­ham and Sam are all now also involved in the busi­ness. Our trac­tor and trail­er rides are always pop­u­lar and we take vis­i­tors on a tour of the farm and explain that our main farm­ing enter­prise is arable farm­ing and this is looked after by Steve and Sam. We grow cere­al crops (wheat and bar­ley), oil seed rape and pota­toes. We also have our own pig herd which Meryl looks after. Emma man­ages the farm shop and café along­side Gra­ham who looks after butch­ery and exter­nal whole­sale cus­tomers. Emma, Gra­ham and Sam are the fifth gen­er­a­tion to live and work at the fam­i­ly farm.

The farm runs an inte­grat­ed sys­tem where the cere­al crops on the farm are used to pro­vide feed for the pigs, the straw is used as bed­ding and any manure pro­duced is returned to the land to reduce our reliance on arti­fi­cial fer­tilis­ers. High wel­fare pig pro­duc­tion and envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship are impor­tant parts of the farm­ing busi­ness. The trac­tor ride takes vis­i­tors along­side our pig fin­ish­ing unit and anaer­o­bic digester so we can explain that side of our sto­ry to them. 

Our farm is part of the high­er-lev­el envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship scheme which means that the busi­ness has com­mit­ted to main­tain exist­ing envi­ron­men­tal fea­tures includ­ing hedgerows, per­ma­nent pas­ture pro­tect­ing a rare orchid species, and has cre­at­ed new fea­tures includ­ing floris­ti­cal­ly enhanced mar­gins, new ponds and increased pub­lic access. Our local bee­keep­er Bob Mould keeps his bee­hives on our farm which helps our local pol­li­na­tion. Bob jars the hon­ey which we then sell in the farm shop. 


Resources

We order every­thing pos­si­ble due to hav­ing so many vis­i­tors so any resources that we can pro­vide to them is fan­tas­tic. The cress seeds were a fan­tas­tic resource and we encour­aged vis­i­tors to plant their own egg head using an egg shell at our free seed plant­i­ng stand. The stick­ers are giv­en to every child that enjoys a trac­tor and trail­er ride and the work­sheets are hand­ed out in the farm zone. We are also sup­port­ed by our local NFU branch who very kind­ly bring any spare resources with them on the day and hand them out to vis­i­tors as they leave the car park. If we have any­thing left after the event it does not go to waste as we hand them out to the 30 free school vis­its that we host over the year. 

Ques­tions from visitors

We get asked a lot of things that we might find strange but in fact, it’s quite enlight­en­ing to realise that some vis­i­tors don’t know how their food is grown by farm­ers. A lot of chil­dren espe­cial­ly don’t know that chips come from pota­toes, or sausages from pigs. Being able to take the time to teach vis­i­tors some­thing new or answer ques­tions they have is incred­i­bly rewarding. 

Health and safety

I think the health and safe­ty is noth­ing to be fear­ful of, the risk assess­ment guide and infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by LEAF is fan­tas­tic and made me aware of areas that I hadn’t con­sid­ered. I send our risk assess­ment to our insur­er who also checks over the doc­u­ment for me and advis­es on any poten­tial issues. I am for­tu­nate that we are sup­port­ed by our local LIVES group and Hum­ber­side Fire & Res­cue so I can dis­cuss any con­cerns with them pri­or to the event tak­ing place. We always have a debrief after the event and I try to pho­to­graph any areas that might be of con­cern, so it is eas­i­er to cor­rect them for next year. 

Biggest wor­ry

That we don’t meet vis­i­tor expec­ta­tions or pro­vide them with enough infor­ma­tion about the event. As the vis­i­tor num­bers have increased, we have had a few issues that have been high­light­ed such as toi­let loca­tions and a full car park but we always aim to address any issues before the next event takes place.

Finances

We raise mon­ey for local char­i­ties, Rotary Club, Macmil­lan, LIVES, Lincs and Notts Air Ambu­lance and our local church who charge for face paint­ing on the day. This year we raised over £7,000.


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